Thought I might start a blog to give some insight into how to build a set of custom cabinets for your kitchen. This seems to be on every woodworkers list, and with all the books and instructions out there, it can get a bit confusing. I will focus my attention on a faceframe set of cabinets with 1/2” overlay doors and drawers. The kitchen you build can be as traditional or as funky as you want to get. There are though a few guidelines that need be followed for everything to work out. I will not get into design and layout, as this will be a nuts and bolts tutorial.
Let me begin with a basic base cabinet constructed from 3/4” plywood for the case and 3/4” hardwood for the face frame. A four drawer stack. The faceframe (FF) will extend 1/2” past on both sides. This would be an example of a cabinet between say a fridge and stove.
My base wall side (BWS) will always be 34 1/2” tall and 23” deep. With the 1/4” back and 3/4” FF, your net depth is the standard 24”. You will need two sides for each base cabinet. The bottom fixed shelf (FXS) will fit into dadoes milled into each of the sides. The width of this FXS will also be 23”, but the length will vary depending on the size of your cabinet. It is best to rip your BWS and FXS at the same time
Here is an important note, the depth of your dadoe in the BWS is not what you need worry about. Sheet goods vary in thickness, even among all the ones sold as 3/4”. The technique is to leave 3/8” of material and let the dadoe be whatever depth it ends up being.
Here is why, if you have a constant 1/2” overhang on your FF and a constant 3/8” of material on your BWS it makes figuring cut sizes a breeze. Every base FXS will be 1 3/4” less than the desired end width.
Now, where to cut your dadoe. Set your fence to 4 3/4”. This will put the top of the dadoe approxomately 5 1/2” from the bottom.
I make all my bottom rails 1 1/2” wide. With the set-up shown, this gives you the standard 4” toekick height.
Now a word about FF’s. I use 2” widths for rails and stiles on my base cabinets. I use 2 1/2” on any stile that will meet a wall. This gives me material to scribe off and avoids those unsightly filler strips. The distances between the top rail and bottom rail are up to you to determine. Drawer banks, doors or doors and drawers. This is where your “design” comes into play. Just be consistant throught the room. There will be natural breaks like dishwashers and ranges, this is where you want to keep your lines the same. A 6” drawer on the left of a stove and a 4” drawer on the right will cause a visual break in the line of cabinets.
On the back of the cabinet you will need a place to attach them to the wall. This is what a nailer is for. If you make all your rear nailers 6 1/2” wide, then the distance from the FXS to the nailer will be less than 24”. This optimizes your cuts on your 1/4”. Smaller 3 1/2” nailers running from the rear to the front will provide even more rigidity and will give you a place to attach your top. The small 45 degree offcuts you sometimes see on cabinets really do not provide much structural support.
I hope this has started to shed some light on the process and I hope I have made sence with my explanations. Please let me know if any parts are unclear. I will continue to explain different situations as long as people want the info and can understand my ramblings. I have a whole bag if tricks once we get past basics.